The 10-foot shark that washed ashore at Coles Bay in Sidney, B.C., has been identified by experts as a Hexanchus griseus or a bluntnose sixgill shark.
Residents saw what they thought was a shark swimming in the bay in the Greater Victoria area last Sunday, and two days later, saw it had washed onto the beach, dead.
Brian Timmer, a student at the University of Victoria’s prestigious Juanes Laboratory, which focuses on marine ecology and conservation, thought because of the shark’s distended belly, it’s likely it was a mother that ran into complications while giving birth. Mother sharks are known to come into shallower waters to give birth and have large litters of 20 to 100 pups.
James Younger, a Saanich Peninsula resident was by the shoreline this afternoon when a biologist inspecting the shark, made a discovery that seemed to confirm Timmer’s suspicions.
“[The biologist] saw a head, leant down and pulled out a baby shark from the birth canal. He said the mother probably died while giving birth.”
Other possibilities are that it was poisoned, endured a stressful event, or died of old age.
The Juanes Laboratory is contacting Fisheries and Oceans Canada to see if they can perform the necropsy and report back.
A similar event occurred in Port Alberni in 2011, when a shark washed onto shore after encountering complications while giving birth.
Whale-watching skipper Evan Sztricsko was on the water south of Ogden Point in Victoria last summer when he recovered a much smaller sixgill shark.
“I was informed by the DFO that often they die choking on traps that are baited for crabs or other animals,” said Sztricsko.
Timmer added that since there will be a necropsy, the chances of a whale-style beach explosion, where internal gasses build up until they blow, is slim. Likely the stomach and any other organs that might have had gas buildup from decomposition will be taken for analysis and used to find out about the shark’s diet and lifestyle.